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Made in America

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The brutality of war and the hardship of economic depression--topics all too unpleasantly relevant today--are the themes of a pair of exhibits opening this week at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. American Expressionism: Art and Social Change, 1920s-1950s, a traveling exhibition organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, reexamines the work of early American expressionists like Ivan Albright, Jacob Lawrence, and Beauford Delaney--artists who, in the words of Block curator Corinne Granof, "adopted a form of European expressionism and then modified it with an American concern for social causes." The 80 paintings in the show, many figurative, grapple with oppression, racism, labor, World War II, and the travails of urban life. Working Conditions: Depression-Era American Prints, organized by the Block to complement the exhibit of paintings, zeros in on the plight of the worker. Prints like Benton Murdoch Spruance's Conversation With Death "have an almost medieval quality" in their depiction of suffering, says Granof, while the stark lines of Herman Roderick Volz's Industrialization evoke the alienation of the working class. Both shows open Friday, January 30, and run through May 9 at the museum, 40 Arts Circle Drive on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston. Museum hours are Tuesday from 10 to 5, Wednesday through Friday from 10 to 8, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5. Admission is free; call 847-491-4000. Also opening on the 30th is Charles Woodman's video installation American Diorama, inspired by 19th-century landscape painting and 20th-century panoramic photography.

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